"Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug." - Isaiah 51:1-2
When I need to get a piece of writing perfect, I take the advice of a Middle School English teacher who taught me to read backwards. I start by reading the sentences, last to first. If I'm feeling picky, I go even further, reading each word in reverse order to catch any typos.
This old trick is based on the idea that there are things we only see when looking backward. Reading from beginning to end, the familiar story can blind us to hidden mistakes. But when we look backward we may notice something we've missed.
The same is true of our spiritual journeys. Isaiah urges his audience to "look to the rock from which you were hewn." It is there he believes they will find the hand of God helping to carve out their stories, the hand they may have missed in the forward movement of their lives.
God is chiseling away at me too, mostly in ways I don't recognize in the moment. But when I stop to look back, I see the chips of stone that have accumulated around me. I measure the distance I have come from the unformed block I once was. Patterns of grace and challenge emerge, and I recognize, with relief, the mark of God's handiwork, a mark I could only see in hindsight.
Chiseling God, grant me the space and the wisdom to measure the difference you have made in my life. Show me my story as you read it.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.